Excerpt by Ben Carson, from America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.
It is a testimony to all that is good about America and the opportunities available here that a friend of mine was able to start out as a short order cook in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and, from there, through hard work and carefully observing the values that lead to success, established his own national chain of fast-food restaurants. As with any good rags-to-riches story, however, his life wasn't always easy.
My Friend's Rags-to-riches Story
Born to an unwed mother he never knew, he was adopted after six weeks. His adoptive mother died when he was five, and his father went in search of work around the country. From his family, my friend learned the value of hard work and perseverance, and in his early thirties, this young entrepreneur was given the opportunity to use his restaurant experience to take over four Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in need of help in Columbus, Ohio. He was able to completely turn around those restaurants, and four years later he sold them back to KFC, making approximately $1.5 million. That was just the beginning of his success, as he went on to found his own national fast-food chain.
'Only in America … would a guy like me, from humble beginnings and without a high school diploma, become successful.'
"Only in America," he was once quoted as saying, "would a guy like me, from humble beginnings and without a high school diploma, become successful. America gave me a chance to live the life I want and work to make my dreams come true. We should never take our freedoms for granted, and we should seize every opportunity presented to us."
His name of course is Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's, and my wife and I were among his first houseguests after he built his dream home in Fort Lauderdale prior to suffering a fatal heart attack. The effect that he has had on America has been overwhelmingly positive. Adopted himself, he went on to found the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. He claims his decision to drop out of high school was his biggest regret, and so not only did he go on to get his GED at around age sixty, he started the Dave Thomas Education Center to help other adults complete their GED.
The original Wendy's location opened by founder Dave Thomas at 257 East Broad Street in Columbus, OH in 1969.
Dave Thomas's success is not rare in our country because of the freedoms we enjoy, and like him and so many others, I am incredibly thankful to call America home. I have been privileged to travel the world and visit all of its major societies, but to be born in a land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard is an unfathomable blessing that should never be taken for granted. As I learned growing up, even with all the economic turmoil that surrounds us today, entrepreneurial opportunities still exist for anyone who is willing to work hard and think innovatively.
The more stories I read about the success of people who applied themselves to make their lives better, the more motivated I am to be one of them.
The more stories I read about the success of people who applied themselves to make their lives better, the more motivated I am to be one of them. Knowledge really is power, and when I became a voracious reader, my confidence and grades improved accordingly. I needed little in the way of pep talks by adults, and today it is my strong belief that if you can just get children to believe in themselves and understand that when they achieve academically, they are the ultimate beneficiaries, they will do what is necessary to become a successful contributor rather than a drain on society…
There are few places in the world where people enjoy the level of freedom we have in America. Here you don't have to ask anyone's permission to start a new career or move to a new location. You are free to associate with whomever you please, and you are free to speak your mind if you decide not to allow yourself to be constrained by political correctness. If you have a fabulous idea, you are free to put as much time and effort into it as you like, and if that idea results in a financial windfall, you are entitled to spend your money to your heart's desire — after you have paid your taxes, of course. You can worship however you choose without fear of persecution. Even the poorest people in our society live like kings compared to billions of desperately poor people throughout the world.
- Ben Carson, excerpt from America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great
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(Some styling above is a web-exclusive feature not included in the text of America the Beautiful. Image attribution: Unknown photographer/Wendy's Corporate Headquarters, special thanks to WOSU Public Media. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)